Looking at yesterday’s flurry of news stories, the announcement by Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe that complainants in child sex abuse cases will not automatically be believed, his view that suspects should not be named until charged without a court order and Parliament’s vote last night to end the automatic naming of MPs on arrest for any offence, it is not hard to see why some will ask how it is that a situation has emerged in which such regressive measures have found a fertile environment to germinate and grow. It is in human nature to note consequences and attribute them to design. Cause and effect, Cui Bono?
Since the moment it became apparent that Exaro were relying on obviously false witnesses making exaggerated and sensationalist allegations of VIP abuse, attention turned to the organisation itself and those involved in an attempt at trying to determine some motive for the flagrant disregard for journalistic codes and practices. The logic is that we can all see the cause, we can plainly see the negative effect, and so there must be a nefarious motive.
Ironically, those that leap to such a conclusion are making a similar mistake to Exaro News themselves; by looking for an extraordinary conspiracy based explanation, they miss the very simple truth and that is that Exaro News and their manic online supporters actually believe the incredible version of recent history that they are defending. They live in a looking-glass world in which every fact is grotesquely distorted. For those of us that have not allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated into this cult-like world view, this seems incomprehensible.
For Exaro News journalists this has become a binary issue. Either a) they have uncovered one of the greatest scandals in history involving a secret cabal of sadistic paedophiles at the highest echelons of the UK establishment, or b) they are responsible for the greatest scandal in the history of UK journalism, one that has far reaching negative effects on the very people they claim to be supporting, the victims of child sexual abuse.
The stakes are high, the difference between the consequences of the only two outcomes is extreme. At the one end David Hencke, and Mark Conrad can take their places next to former Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who uncovered Watergate, and Mark Watts next to Ben Bradlee. They will be lauded for their courage and determination, they will receive awards, they will be held up by future generations of journalists as exemplars of the profession; alternatively they face humiliation, career-ending ridicule and future generations of journalists will regard their tale as an abject lesson in shoddy investigative journalism.
There is no middle ground now. These are the binary realities. Reputations permanently gilded, or tarnished forever.
It is because the consequences of having got it so it wrong are so unthinkable that Exaro News continue to strike outward. They will tell themselves that they are in possession of information that other commentators like myself do not have and that the very fact that respected journalists from a diverse number of media organisations are skeptical, to say the very least, and are increasingly prepared to publish that skepticism, is not an indication that they should objectively re-evaluate the situation but that everyone else, The Times, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Daily Mail – and yes, even this little blog – are part of a giant establishment conspiracy to cover-up the truth, as they see it, about sadistic establishment paedophilia. Disagreement becomes confirmation, the greater the disagreement the greater the confirmation. We’re all part of an establishment PR campaign, they’ll claim. We all must be because the alternative… the alternative… the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.
This is what always happens with conspiracy theories – as uncomfortable truths are unearthed, as evidence mounts that it is flawed, as the overwhelming majority of objective observers conclude that it is without foundation – the conspiracy by necessity must expand to accommodate these developments and the cult-like believers become more entrenched.
This is the Watergate Complex, a consequence of the binary outcomes of career death or glory.
The sadness is that the reality of child sexual abuse over the last five decades is scandalous enough. Abuse can be found to have occurred on an horrific scale in care homes, schools, scouting groups, churches and almost every institution where children congregate and predatory paedophiles could gain access to children. VIPs, celebrities and politicians were involved in abusing children and there have been cover-ups. The Goddard Inquiry is welcome and necessary.
The last three years, since Savile’s exposure, have presented to campaigners an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of a previously taboo subject, to sweep away ignorance and ensure that practical measures can be put in place like mandatory reporting to help ensure that future generations are not exposed to the same dangers that adult survivors endured.
However, the positive environment has been contaminated, the golden opportunity is being squandered. Instead of positive changes to the law, regressive changes are being mooted.
It is not just a binary issue for Exaro and their supporters, it is sadly also a binary issue for survivors.